File Explorer has been many people's favorite way to find and navigate their photos, documents and files since it was introduced in Windows 95. In Windows 10, File Explorer makes it even easier to get to the files you need, with a feature called Quick access!

Quick access brings files you recently opened, and folders you use often, to the default File Explorer view for easy discovery. Better still, you can pin (or un-pin) folders in Quick access, to make sure File Explorer brings files and folders to you with as few clicks as possible.

Quick access

In File Explorer, you’ll find not only Quick access, but also a view of all your files in your PC’s storage areas, including your hard drives, documents, photos/media and cloud storage (OneDrive).

Open File Explorer by selecting the file folder icon on your taskbar. If you don’t see it there, find it in your Start menu, in the Apps list under Windows System. (Bonus tip: You can also open it by using the keyboard shortcut Windows Key + E.)

Screenshot of Start menu folders and tiles

How Quick access works

Let's look first at how File Explorer works. On the left is the navigation pane, where you find the folders and locations on your computer that hold files. If a folder is selected, its contents appear in the main body of File Explorer. When you first open File Explorer in Windows 10, Quick access is at the top of the navigation pane, and your Quick access contents show in the main File Explorer body.

Frequent folders in Quick access

You might notice that some of the items that show up in File Explorer with Quick access are familiar to you. That’s because they’re listed in Quick access based on your usage, with Frequent folders and Recent files front and center. In that sense, Quick access customizes itself, but you can make Quick access even more useful by also pinning your important folders there.

Pin folders to keep them on top

Some folders come pinned to Quick access by default, such as Desktop, Documents, Downloads, and Pictures—these have a pin icon next to or below them. Your Frequent folders and Recent files added to Quick access are based on use—if Windows detects you're not using a folder much, or haven't opened a file recently, it will replace them with something you've recently worked on. Pinning a folder means it won't get rotated out of Quick access, even if there are other folders you use more, so it will always be easy to find.

You can pin any folder to Quick access. Find a folder in the navigation pane, right-click or press and hold it, and then select Pin to Quick access. Now, each time you open Quick access, you'll always find that folder.

By the same token, if you find over time that you don't frequently use some items in Quick access anymore, unpin them.

Quick access folders

Let’s see this at work. In the example above are folders of my own, added by Quick access. To customize these lists and stay productive, we’re going to unpin the old 2017 folder from my finances.

We’ll also unpin the Budget folder, since I already have 2018 pinned, and it is within that directory. I also have an Excel file called July 2017 Budgeting that I just pulled up once for reference. Let’s get rid of that while we’re at it. I navigate to the folders under Quick access, right-click them, then select Unpin from Quick access. For the July 2017 Budgeting file I also want to remove, I perform the same right-click step but select Remove from Quick access.

Here is a clip showing me un-pinning and removing those items.

Remove folders from Quick access manually

You can turn off automatic pinning

Part of the beauty of Quick access is that it automatically adds files you're using. All you do manually is add and pin any additional folders you anticipate using, or unpin folders you're done with.

However, if you prefer not to have Frequent folders or Recent files automatically added to Quick access, right-click or press and hold Quick access on the top of the navigation bar, and then select Options. A new window opens, with a section on the bottom labeled Privacy. Deselect either (or both) of the check boxes, one for files and the other for folders, to stop those items from being added automatically to Quick access. Here’s how that works.

Show frequent and recent folders and files

Follow these steps to use, understand and customize Quick access, and be more productive than ever. Imagine how much time you’ll save by accessing the folders you need with one click, instead of navigating through multiple directories to find the one you need.

I hope you enjoy using Quick access as much as I do!

Also, learn how to save disk space with OneDrive Files-on-Demand.